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Extreme weather demands warp-speed government-private sector response

We must meet this moment by doubling down on efforts to improve forecasts and early warnings

It has happened again. Yet another devastating weather event — this time the deadliest December tornado outbreak on record, and probably one of the top 10 deadliest for any month — has reminded us that we’ve entered a new era of environmental extremes. While we don’t yet know the link between climate change and this particular event, we do know that a warming climate has increased the effects of extreme weather, which scientists agree will only get worse in the years and decades to come, the Washington Post reports.

As a nation, we must meet this moment by doubling down on efforts to improve forecasts and early warnings in the face of what Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell rightly called “the crisis of our generation.”

The Weather Forecasting Research and Innovation Act of 2017, also known as “the Weather Act” and widely viewed as the first comprehensive weather authorization in 25 years, led to several important advances in U.S. weather forecasting capabilities. These include the establishment of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s tornado warning improvement program to predict tornadoes beyond one hour in advance, greater incorporation of private-sector data into National Weather Service operational models and forecasts, and with subsequent amendments in 2019, the establishment of NOAA’s Earth Prediction Innovation Center to restore U.S. leadership in weather modeling.

In the years since, however, our world has changed dramatically. Every year brings more disasters to more places, with higher costs. Local communities don’t have the tools and resources to cope with more frequent and more intense floodingheat waveswildfires and other environmental extremes. The stakes are now higher than ever for how we go about funding and implementing policies and programs that will allow us to adapt to and mitigate severe weather and climate conditions.

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